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The Fate of Atlantic City; Behind San Francisco's Empty Lots

Welcome to Curbed's weekly roundup of architecture, real estate, and urban planning-related feature stories. Please be in touch if you have a story to recommend.

1. What's an industry town supposed to do when that industry—in this case, casinos—falters? The Guardian considers the history and potential downfall of Atlantic City,

Atlantic City didn't always look like this. Founded in 1854, it was first marketed as a seaside health resort. The town has benefited from monopolies since its inception — the first, the Camden and Atlantic Railroad, allowed blue-collar visitors from Philadelphia to arrive en masse. During prohibition, local powerbrokers' disregard for the law attracted not only partygoers, but also businessmen and organised crime. African-Americans poured in to find work, swelling the local population and becoming the backbone of the local tourism industry. Many residents still speak fondly of this era, swapping jokes about low-level political corruption. 2. In Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, more than 50 buildings have memorial murals painted onto their sides. One resident of the neighborhood chronicles for Urban Omnibus his search for the person depicted in one of those murals.

My search began by looking beyond these particular questions to the complex history of the neighborhood itself. Bed-Stuy's murals have grown within and alongside the neighborhood; what was once a railroad hub on the edge of the blossoming city of Brooklyn in the mid-1800s had by the late 19th century grown into a working and middle-class community supported by those who worked in downtown Manhattan. By the 1960s, the neighborhood was a hotbed of racial tension: the gang riots of 1961 and race riots of 1964 placed a spotlight on the country's bigger picture issues regarding race. 3. In 2013, San Francisco issued 24,000 new building permits, but even with a frenzy of new construction, some notable lots remain empty. San Francisco Magazine profiles 10 of these properties, including lots where the owners ran into financing or approvals trouble.

If you're the sort who believes in curses, these two enormous holes in the ground in the heart of the city's big-money district have bad juju written all over them. In the '70s, the Shorenstein Company bought the lots and demolished the existing structures to make way for high-rise offices. In 1984, before the new buildings could be erected, city voters passed Proposition K, banning any new development that would throw shadows over public parks—parks like nearby St. Mary's Square, which sits right in the shadow of the would-be Pine Street tower. Meanwhile, the Bush Street project floundered because of its adjacency to the historic Mining Exchange Building. - See more at: 4. Kangbashi, China, is known as a "ghost city": it was built for residents who hadn't yet arrived. The intention was that residents of more rural areas would move in as part of an effort to diversify China's economy. The Guardian looks at the holdout residents who have refused to move, and whether the effort to populate the ghost cities is working:

Farmers as a whole have never done well in Ordos. The thin layer of topsoil was soon degraded by crops and grazing, exacerbated by lack of rain and limited water resources. So when the government generated enormous wealth from the region's coal industry – a further drain on water resources – they created a municipality and began pouring money into a the building of a new metropolis. · Recommended Reading archive [Curbed]